England host latest leg of FIFA's World Cup Welcome Tour.
Click here to watch FATV’s coverage of FIFA’s Women’s World Cup Welcome Tour
Last Thursday in the Andaz Hotel in Liverpool Street, London, women’s football received a major boost as FIFA came to town to promote this summer’s Women’s World Cup.
The sixth edition of football’s principal competition will take place in Germany between 26 June and 17 July, and Hope Powell’s England team will be one of 16 teams hoping to lift the big prize.
As part of their drive to promote the tournament and increase ticket sales FIFA have embarked on a ‘World Cup Welcome Tour’, which will see them visit each of the competing nations between now and June. Last Thursday was England’s turn.
“I really think that the World Cup in Germany will be a watershed moment for the women’s game globally,” says Kelly Simmons, The FA’s Head of National Game and one of five guest speakers at last week’s event.
“The fact that they have already sold 500,000 tickets, and it kicks off in June, probably speaks volumes for how big this tournament is going to be across the world.”
Despite the growing excitement surrounding the World Cup, England defender Casey Stoney, who was a guest on Monday evening’s ‘Talk of the Terrace’ show on ESPN, insists she is not looking being the group stage.
“We’ve drawn Mexico, New Zealand [and] Japan and they all provide very, very different challenges so our target at the moment is to get out of the group," she says.
The England Head Coach is in full agreement.
“World football is phenomenal,” begins Powell. “Being in a tournament environment you never know what you are going to get. You rely on a little bit of luck as much as anything else. You rely on the fact that everybody is going to stay fit and healthy. Our priority is to get out of the group and then we go from there.”
England’s participation in the World Cup will be the focal point of a landmark year for the women’s game in this country. However, two months before the tournament begins The FA will launch The FA WSL, an eight-strong semi-professional league with the ultimate aim of improving standards.
“I’ve been involved in the game for a long time and I think this is a huge, positive step forward for women’s football, moving it to summer so we’re not competing with the men’s game [and] the fact that it is the summer makes it easier for families to get there,” says Stoney.
“The players are excited. [The top league] has gone down to eight teams so it will be very, very competitive. That can only be good for the women’s game.”
Tatjana Haenni, the Head of Women’s Football Competitions at FIFA, is also excited by the WSL.
“The more high-level competition you have, the better you get. A strong national league is really important to develop the players," she says.
“It’s really important we have countries like England leading the way for others. [Women’s football] needs somebody to take the risk, [to] invest a lot of money and resources and [have] the Federation backing women’s football. For FIFA, [The FA WSL] is a great example which we hope to take on to other countries and convince them to build up more professional and semi-professional leagues throughout the world.”
For FIFA Women’s World Cup ticket information, please visit the FIFA website